The benefits of Pirates in a Primary School by @chizkent

Ahoy!

Captain Theodore

Our mission statement at Warden House is to ‘Make learning irresistible by teaching amazing lessons that empower children to make stunning progress.’ Although a noble statement, I have not come across a teacher in my sixteen years as a primary headteacher who sets out to make their lesson truly, mind glowingly tedious.  Including the wordirresistible in our mission statement does, however, sharpen the mind when planning learning that will engage young minds in a way that is both memorable and challenging.

This is a re-blog post originally posted by Graham Chisnell and published with kind permission.

The original post can be found here.

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After developing our curriculum last year, we introduced a range of school wide projects and topics throughout the year.  These ranged from a vertically streamed team session to build team identity across the school that lasted an hour to a week long oracy topic with a focus on an alien crash landing on the school site.  Each school wide unit enabled staff and children to come together, share their strengths as learners, develop challenge and resilience and have memorable fun. Setting our sights on the importance of engaging our children in irresistible learning, our teachers considered what focus the school should have for our next school wide topic. The week would take place in mid september and would have the focus on developing children’s oracy, communication, imagination and performance skills.

Captain Blackbeard Chisnell with me motley crew o pirates.

After batting several ideas around the staff room, we spotted an advert for National Talk Like a Pirate Day on September 19th and the scene was set.  A day was not enough for pirate fun so we elected to take a week out of our busy curriculum in September for Warden House Pirate Week.  We met with Guy Scantlebury from Bigfoot to set the scene for the week.  Guy had two fantastic actors, Jeremy (Captain Sebastian) and Adrian (Captain Theodore).  The week began with a whole school assembly where Captain Theodore burst into the hall with his ukelele and mesmerised the children, singing sea shanteys coupled with a host of pirate “ah-harrrrs”.

Captain Adam the Ant Atkinson with his hearty crew.

At first our Year 6 children were reluctant to engage with the pirates.  Their self-conscious nature gave them a reserve that was not evident in our younger children whose enthusiasm flowed freely.  As  the assembly progressed our oldest children began the tough journey of suspending their disbelief.  Step by step, the children in Year 6 remembered how to play, how to make believe, how to laugh and how to learn through play.  The children joined in sea shanties and explored the acting skills of voice control, breathing techniques and comedic timing.  They let themselves become young again through this mesmerising experience.  As a result, the language explored, play scripts written, poetry recited, songs sun and stories shared were inspiring and showed deep progress in their capacity to learn about and through oracy.

Our vision wheel is a statement of six key values held by the school.  One of the six values we uphold is being successful and we try to share experiences of success wherever possible across our school community.  The culmination of work across Pirate Week was presented during our final assembly where the successes of the week were celebrated.  Children sang shanties, read poetry, danced and performed a range of pieces.  As a school, with staff and children dressed in full pirate garb; we shared our learning, celebrated our accomplishments and laughed together.

Pirate Week 2014 c from Graham Chisnell on Vimeo.

Pirate Week will be remembered fondly by our children and staff as a time where through the madness of our busy lives; our staff and children came together and suspended our disbelief as we welcomed pirates into our school to take our imagination to a place deep inside ourselves where stories begin.


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